9 Email Marketing Trends to Watch for 2021 and Beyond

Categories: Email marketing
Updated: July 01, 2021

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If there is one thing the pandemic has made us realize, it is that plans can change easily. Whatever it’s you predict today, may not be accurate tomorrow. You should keep an eye on the latest trends and projections in order to stay ahead of the competition.

Looking back to the beginning of 2020, there were rumors that email marketing had one last breath to make. Then the pandemic hit, and we can see the tables have turned. Over the last year, businesses have swiftly shifted to digital channels, making email marketing great again!

According to HubSpot, marketers are sending 28% more emails than they did pre-coronavirus.

While it’s definitely good news, we need to be careful! To match your competition as well as ace your email marketing strategy, you need to stay on top of the latest trends. In this blog post, we’ll show you 9 email marketing trends that are all set to gain popularity in 2021 and beyond.

Let’s get started!

Table of contents

1. Plain-text emails

If you’d like to get your message across plain and simple, this trend might be for you!

Although complex HTML emails featuring all the bells and whistles can actually be eye-catching, many marketers are endorsing the simple effectiveness of plain-text emails. An HTML email often contains a melting pot of images, colors, and formatting elements, but a plain-text email is as simple as it gets: words only.

Generally, the stripped-back, static nature of text-only emails can remove all superfluous elements and cut straight to the point - pulling on the minimalist email design style, which is very trendy right now.

Sending users a plain-text email can be a nice change of pace for your subscribers. You can combine your plain-text emails with your other designed and templated emails for maximum effect. In order to get the most from your less-flashy emails, use them when you are looking to get a little bit personal or trying to connect with your audience on a deeper, more personal level.

Below is a plain-text email from Movable Ink:

Movable Ink uses a plain-text email
Movable Ink uses a plain-text email

You can see that the use of text in the above email makes it feel much more important and personal than it would if it were filled with images and GIFs.

2. User-generated content

Another big trend that is expected to reach its full potential this year is utilizing user-generated content in email marketing campaigns. Simply put, user-generated content (UGC) is any form of content (i.e., text, images, videos, audio) created by end-users of goods or services.

When used correctly, UGC can increase the trust towards your brand and turn the user into your brand ambassador. Not to mention, UGC can save your campaigns in terms of content if you don’t have any at the ready.

Keep in mind that UGC acts a little like social proof. If someone that looks like your target audience shows that your business can answer their prayers, they will be willing to give it a shot and interact with it.

Customers find UGC 9.8x more impactful than influencer content, and up to 78% of people say that UGC highly impacts their buying decisions. So, by strategically injecting it into your emails, you can humanize your content and get a tip of the hat from your audience.

Let’s have a look at how MeUndies nailed UGC in its email.

MeUndies uses UGC (user-generated content) in its email
MeUndies uses UGC (user-generated content) in its email

It starts off by asking recipients to join the MeUndies community by following them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or all three. It is a fun way to get recipients in on the action and build a strong community around the brand.

Below the top section is UGC, featuring a couple of tweets, together with a #MeUndiesFam hashtag that recipients can use to follow along on social media platforms.

This kills two birds with one stone because it lets MeUndies spotlight two of their loyal customers, while promoting its own brand. In turn, they are able to create deep rapport and next-level customer loyalty and get the word out without being annoying about it.

Thus, consider incorporating poll results, customer reviews, or photos of your customers using your products or services in your own emails with a handy CTA (call to action) button to increase trust.

3. AI (Artificial Intelligence)

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is still a confusing concept for many companies. Both marketing newbies and even more seasoned marketers are skeptical about the use of AI for email marketing.

The truth is, there is more data available online than any marketer could ever collect and process, even when they used advanced technology and edge-cutting software. On the contrary, AI is capable of dealing with this task with minimal effort.

Content analysis, list segmentation, and effective outreach - all these tasks can be done better by AI than humans. There is also evidence that the scope of AI’s abilities is increasing (soon, it will be able to complete most human tasks), which means it is time to get a grip of how to use AI to optimize your email marketing campaigns effectively.

Let’s look at the email example from Netflix:

Netflix effectively uses AI in its email
Netflix effectively uses AI in its email

AI works on predictive models that foretell how recipients will interact with the messages and what will resonate the most with them.

4. Hyper-personalization

There are many objectives an email marketing campaign can aim for, such as raising brand awareness and re-engaging customers. Nevertheless, the ultimate goal of any email marketing campaign is to generate more revenue and make more profit. Over the last few years, marketers have concluded that one of the most effective ways to do that is through complete personalization.

This trend actually goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. The use of AI makes it easier to assure personalization by obtaining more data about your audience. Regular customers are becoming more and more aware of the volume of information gathered about them. Actually, they expect it to be used to well accommodate their needs; they only agree to give up their own data in exchange for better-personalized offers.

Unfortunately, not all companies can take advantage of personalization in email marketing. Lack of personalization can result in anything from mailing list degradation to an overall failure of the campaign due to skyrocketing costs.

That’s why businesses are expected to focus on email marketing hyper-personalization in 2021 instead of just personalizing parts of campaigns. Below is how to get the most out of this trend:

  • Tailoring messages, offers, and promotions by audience segment
  • Recommending content or products by audience segment
  • Use of triggered emails delivered sent based on customer behavior

Read more:

Tea company DAVIDsTEA, for instance, creates hyper-personalized emails like the one below, featuring detailed information that is specifically tailored to each individual customer.

They remind the recipient of the date they made their first purchase…

DAVIDsTEA creates hyper-personalized emails
DAVIDsTEA creates hyper-personalized emails

…how much tea they have bought, and what their favorite product is.

5. Email marketing automation

As you can see, personalization can be pretty labor-intensive. And that brings us to number five on our list of email marketing trends for 2021 and beyond: automation.

When combining analytics with email marketing, you can trigger hyper-personalized email marketing campaigns that are based on user behavior. This might look like allowing your audience to choose the information they want to receive from you and how often, or delivering personalized shopping recommendations based on purchase history.

Below are several email marketing automation tactics we recommend:

  • Create a welcome email series. You can send a single email if you want, but we have found that a welcome email series is an excellent way to onboard your new subscribers, set expectations, and increase engagement.

  • Send birthday or anniversary emails. Birthday and anniversary emails let your subscribers know that you are thinking about them. Add a special discount, and you will boost your revenue.

  • Send emails based on your subscribers’ website activities. There are some email marketing automation tools that can integrate with your website to trigger campaigns depending on the action visitors take on your website.

These are just several ways you can automate your email marketing campaigns. There are literally limitless options.

AVADA Email Marketing is an awesome app that can help you automate your campaigns effectively. With its pre-done automation emails series, you can follow up with your audience at any touchpoint. It’s easy to reach, engage, and convert them into your long-term customers and raving fans.

AVADA Email Marketing is an outstanding automation tool
AVADA Email Marketing is an outstanding automation tool

The platform supports:

  • Welcome emails
  • Transactional emails, review request
  • Abandoned cart emails, browse product abandonment
  • Cross-sell, upsell emails
  • Win-back emails

Related topics:

6. Video and animation in email

We will see more marketers experiment with linking out to a video from a thumbnail and directly embedding videos into emails.

Videos are interesting to watch, while they help you draw more attention and readership. As a matter of fact, if you add the word “video” in your email subject line, your open rate could increase by 19%.

Many major email systems don’t yet allow video emulation within the email itself, including Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo. You can create a thumbnail image instead and then use the image as a clickable path leading to your yo-yo video.

Up to this point, to make your email more dynamic, you can take advantage of animations. For lightweight documents with few heavy text or picture components, animations usually work well. Typical animations consist of some formats, such as GIF, CSS, and APNG.

For more useful tips on creating a video email, read Video Email Marketing guide.

7. Interactive emails

Interactive content is not anything new. Over half (53%) of marketers say that they already use it in some capacity, and more are following suit all the time. However, interactive content is expected to reach new heights this year, especially with email marketing.

Below is an example of an email using interactive content from Google:

Google uses an interactive email
Google uses an interactive email

You will notice that you can choose the color of Google Pixel Buds and add your choice to the cart right from the email. This makes it much easier for users to complete their purchases right away.

In fact, Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) will mean great things for interactive emails. With AMP, you can add interactive content directly into your marketing emails. Therefore, if you’d like to show off a few different products, you can add a carousel and shopping options right in your email instead of linking out to a landing page.

That means your subscribers can view products and shop right from your email. Every time you reduce friction and make it easier for your customers to complete an action, you increase the likelihood that they’ll complete that action.

8. Privacy-friendly emails

When the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) was launched in 2018, the email marketing world changed a lot. Still over the past 2 years, it has still not adjusted to the new realities completely. In 2021 and beyond, focusing on data privacy remains an ongoing trend.

Here are some GDPR guidelines related to email marketing:

  • Get consent. There are lots of opt-in tools out there that can help you get more subscribers while staying compliant with GDPR. The important thing here is to get consent before adding someone to your email list.

  • Create a privacy policy. GDPR requires you to have a comprehensive privacy policy, which provides detailed information about the data you collect as well as how you will use it. Add your own privacy policy to your website and then link to it from your opt-in form.

  • Keep your consent records. You’re required to store a record of consent, which includes the user’s identity, the data consent was given, as well as what was consented to.

  • Let users revoke permission easily. GDPR requires that users are able to revoke consent easily. A visible unsubscribe link in your email will do the trick.

  • Avoid false or deceptive messaging. GDPR includes guidelines around content in order to protect users. You have to show your identity clearly, include your physical address, identify the content, and essentially keep things honest.

9. Email redesign

Email design is one of the most dynamic and fluid parts of email marketing. It is creative and extremely subjective, meaning it’s prone to be influenced by many external factors.

When it comes to email marketing, there is more reasoning behind a sudden change in emails’ appearance than just aesthetics. Nowadays, most people check their emails using a mobile device. To stay relevant, email marketers need to adjust their copy to fit the screen of mobile phones.

In 2021, the hottest email design trends are expected to cover the following areas:

  • Minimalism. Many marketers predict that the public love for minimalism will reflect itself in email campaigns soon. Well-structured, uncluttered emails with a single objective and minimum irrelevant details will reign supreme this year.

  • Dark mode. Ever since Apple introduced the dark mode, it’s become the new norm to give people a chance to adjust the brightness and look at the screen without squinting from how bright it is.

  • Bright and bold colors. It is all about making yourself seend. While you don’t want to overload your email with too many images, you definitely want to attract a user’s attention with daring color blocks.

The bottom line

All in all, we can say that 2021 is about to be a challenging but interesting year. There are many new trends emerging and older ones still in full force. It’s definitely up to you, whether you are going to take advantage of them and slay the competition. Thanks for reading, and good luck!


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